Identity Matters: Exploring the Ambivalence of EU Foreign Policy

Identity Matters: Exploring the Ambivalence of EU Foreign Policy

One cannot begin to understand EU foreign policy without taking identity politics into account. First, the differential Europeanization of national identities explains to a large degree why the current European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) has not been supranationalized. Second, the gap between the EU’s grandiose rhetoric of being a ‘force for good’ in the world and its inability to put this foreign policy identity at work into practice, largely results from the fact that the EU’s construction of a distinct foreign policy identity is inward rather than outward-oriented. Last, but not least, the EU enlargement discourse, particularly about Turkey, has as much to do with contested self-descriptions of the EU and what follows for its boundaries than with any security or economic considerations. The article starts with conceptual remarks on collective identity, followed by three case studies focusing on the lack of supranationalization of the ESDP, the EU’s foreign policy construction as a civilian power, and the enlargement discourse, particularly with regard to Turkey. I conclude with some policy recommendations.

Policy Implications

  • A ‘coalition of the willing’ should move ahead towards permanent structured cooperation in foreign and defense matters, irrespective of British objections.
  • The more the EU pursues a coherent foreign policy with one voice, the more it will recognize that its foreign policy identity and its ‘vision for the world’ need to be adjusted.
  • It is more important for European identity creation to pursue a coherent foreign policy than to embark on an identity discourse that cannot be put in practice.
  • We need more rather than less public controversies about the boundaries of the EU and how these borders reflect European identity.
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